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Stats Corner: Probability Power Ranking

Ranking the probability of each team winning the conference

Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Presented by Stifel - Fresno State v Washington State Photo by Jason Allen/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Welcome to a new season of Stats Corner. For the first article I am going to do a Power Ranking, just like everyone else in the country. However, unlike everyone else in the country I am going to rank teams based solely on their likelihood to win the conference. This is not ranking teams by who I think is the best team, or who I think would win head to head on a neutral site, but rather who is most likely to win the conference title. It takes into consideration the teams being played, with an 8 team schedule each team does not play all the teams in the conference, and where the game is being played, home vs away. The percentages by the opposing team is the percentage chance that the team in the rankings has of winning. Winning percentages came from ESPN.

1) Boise State

33.1% chance of winning the conference, 8.5% chance of going undefeated in conference, .9% chance of going undefeated in season.

San Diego State 59.4%

San Jose State 76.0%

Colorado State 74.9%

Wyoming 73.0%

Fresno State 73.7%

New Mexico 89.0%

Utah State 71.4%

Air Force 73.3%

The Broncos are currently favored in every conference game for the season, even getting San Diego State and Fresno State on the road. While it is unlikely they will go undefeated in conference, with no divisions they can still lose one game and be guaranteed a spot in the championship game. Losing two conference games, at this point, is a long shot.

2) Fresno State

16.4% chance of winning the conference, 1.8% chance of going undefeated in conference, .6% chance of going undefeated in season.

Nevada 75.8%

Wyoming 47.9%

Utah State 60.9%

UNLV 75.5%

Boise State 46.9%

San Jose State 53.5%

New Mexico 83.4%

San Diego State 49.8%

Here come the arguments. The Bulldogs are underdogs to Wyoming, Boise State, AND San Diego State so how are they ranked second? Here is where the 8-game schedule with a conference of 12 teams come into play. I do not think Fresno State is second or even third best team in the conference, but they do not play Air Force or have to travel to Hawaii and they have Boise State at home. They have a favorable schedule and it boosts their probability ranking.

3) Air Force

9.8% chance of winning the conference, 0.9% chance of going undefeated in conference, 0.8% chance of going undefeated in season.

Utah State 69.8%

San Jose State 49.3%

San Diego State 59.8%

Wyoming 60.8%

Colorado State 61.7%

Hawaii 49.4%

UNLV 68.3%

Boise State 26.7%

I do think the Falcons would be favored over the Bulldogs on a neutral site, but since they do not play each other, that is irrelevant as this ranking deal in stats and probability. Air Force did get the short end of the scheduling stick. They play at San Jose State, at Boise State, and at Hawaii. The Hawaii trip is never easy, and it does factor into several team’s rankings. They can lose to Boise and still be fine, but most likely, cannot lose two conference games. They also have the smallest difference between going undefeated in conference and going undefeated for the season, as their out of conference games should be easy.

4) Wyoming

9.7% chance of winning the conference, .7% chance of going undefeated in conference

New Mexico 78.9%

Fresno State 52.1%

Air Force 39.2%

Boise State 26.3%

Colorado State 72.8%

UNLV 53.2%

Hawaii 76.9%

Nevada 56.6%

The Cowboys are favored in every game but two. However, those two games are big, at Air Force and at Boise State. If they lose both of those and beat Fresno State, they are at the disadvantage because the Bulldogs do not play Air Force, therefore the Cowboys would be losing a tie breaker to the Falcons that Bulldogs would not have. Getting rid of divisions may be the best way to have the best two teams in the conference title game, but having an 8-team conference schedule does affect each team’s probability at winning unevenly.

5) San Diego State

9.3% chance of winning the conference, 0.6% chance of going undefeated in conference

Boise State 40.6%

Air Force 40.2%

Hawaii 50.1%

Nevada 71.0%

Utah State 69.3%

Colorado State 58.1%

San Jose State 48.9%

Fresno State 50.2%

The Aztecs seem better than 5th, but while they do get Boise and Fresno State at home, they have Air Force, Hawaii, and San Jose State on the road. Their probability directly tied to their schedule as they play the top 3 teams, but miss out on New Mexico. Swap New Mexico for one of the top three games and the Aztecs would be a top 2 team, but that is the way the schedule works.

6) San Jose State

5.4% chance of winning the conference, 0.3% chance of going undefeated in conference

Air Force 50.7%

Boise State 24.0%

New Mexico 55.9%

Utah State 62.9%

Hawaii 55.8%

Fresno State 46.5%

San Diego State 51.1%

UNLV 46.5%

The Spartans are favored against the Falcons, who were 3rd in this ranking, so why so low. They play at Boise, at Hawaii at UNLV, and get Fresno and San Diego. Like San Diego State, their schedule did not do they any favors. Through in games against #6 USC and #18 Oregon State and I think the Spartans will be better than their record shows.


4.5% chance of winning the conference, 0.2% chance of going undefeated in conference

Hawaii 66.1%

Nevada 46.9%

Colorado State 64.5%

Fresno State 24.5%

New Mexico 43.7%

Wyoming 46.8%

Air Force 31.7%

San Jose State 53.5%

While other teams were hurt by the 8-game schedule, UNLV benefitted. They miss Boise State and San Diego State, got road games against Nevada and New Mexico, and get Hawaii, Wyoming, and San Jose State at home. I would not rank them 7th in a Power Ranking, but they unquestionably got the best 8 game conference schedule.

8) Hawaii

3.3% chance of winning the conference, 0.1% chance of going undefeated in conference

UNLV 33.9%

San Diego State 49.9%

New Mexico 46.0%

San Jose State 44.2%

Nevada 55.8%

Air Force 50.6%

Wyoming 23.1%

Colorado State 68.2%

Hawaii has the best home field advantage in the conference, conversely, they also have the most difficult time on the road. While they do have a higher likelihood then UNLV to go undefeated in conference .3% to .2%, the reason they are lower is (where have I heard this before), the 8 conference games they play. The Rainbow Warriors do get to miss the Broncos, and are fortunate to get San Diego State, San Jose State, and Air Force at home. To see the home field advantage Air Force and Wyoming are closely matched, the Warriors are slight favorites at home to Air Force at 50.6%, but huge underdogs the next week at Wyoming 23.1%.

9) Utah State

3.0% chance of winning the conference, 0.08% chance of going undefeated in conference

Air Force 30.2%

Colorado State 62.4%

Fresno State 39.1%

San Jose State 37.1%

San Diego State 30.7%

Nevada 60.0%

Boise State 28.6%

New Mexico 54.5%

If 7th seemed high for UNLV, 9th seems low for Utah State, but that is how the schedule works. They are underdogs in road games against Air Force, San Jose State, and San Diego State. Because they do not have Wyoming on the schedule they can only lose 2 games to make the title game, being huge underdogs in 5 games …

10) Nevada

3.0% chance of winning the conference, 0.12% chance of going undefeated in conference

Fresno State 24.2%

UNLV 53.1%

San Diego State 29.0%

New Mexico 67.5%

Hawaii 61.8%

Utah State 40.0%

Colorado State 44.4%

Wyoming 43.4%

Nevada has the same percentage chance to win the conference as Utah State and a slightly higher chance to go undefeated in conference than the Aggies, so why is USU ahead of the Wolfpack? Because the Wolfpack have to go to Logan to play and therefore only have 40% chance to win. If the schedule was for Aggies play in Reno, Nevada would be 9th and USU 10th, such is the luck of the schedule.

11) Colorado State

1.9 % chance of winning the conference, 0.03% chance of going undefeated in conference

Utah State 37.6%

Boise State 25.1%

UNLV 35.5%

Air Force 38.3%

Wyoming 27.2%

San Diego State 41.9%

Nevada 55.6%

Hawaii 31.8%

Are the Rams the second worse teams in the conference? Probably not, but the schedule did not do them any favors. Boise, Air Force, and San Diego State at home, Wyoming and Hawaii on the road. The Rams are looking to show people they have improved since last year, but it may not show in the record.

12) New Mexico

0.7% chance of winning the conference, 0.01% chance of going undefeated in conference

Wyoming 21.1%

San Jose State 44.1%

Hawaii 54.0%

Nevada 32.5%

UNLV 43.7%

Boise State 11.0%

Fresno State 16.6%

Utah State 45.5%

If they Lobos want to improve their record over last year, they will need to do it with their out of conference play. Fortunately for them, they are favored over Tennessee Tech, New Mexico State, and UMass. They do get Hawaii and San Jose State at home, where they have an advantage playing at 5000+ ft.

Probability of winning 6 games

Boise State 86.9%

Air Force 82.4%

Fresno State 79.9%

Wyoming 66.2%

San Diego State 64.9%

Hawaii 59.3%

UNLV 58.1%

Utah State 48.1%

Nevada 47.2%

San Jose State 43.1%

Colorado State 38.4%